What Scrabble can teach us about Questioning

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Let’s work on the premise that one way of offering differentiated learning tasks is to offer a choice of questions to learners, who can then select them based on their own preferences. Now imagine that you have presented 8 questions you want them to pick from. Without parameters this is unlikely to be particularly productive. Some might think to rush through all questions, others might only complete one, typically students will work through the questions in order which in many ways defeats the point of offering a range for them to pick from.

One solution is to adopt a ‘scrabble-esque’ approach.

Firstly come up with a number of questions about a topic (say for instance 8 questions).

Secondly assign each of the questions a score. So for instance ‘In What year did Shakespeare write Macbeth?’ might be worth 1, whereas ‘Why might Shakespeare have been inclined to write about Witches?’ might be more challenging and worth 5. Include a range of small, medium and big ticket scores.

Thirdly you assign a total score which you expect student to achieve by answering a combination of questions that total that score. So a score of 10 might be made up by answering a 3, 1, 1 and 5 mark questions. Variables can include saying you can make the total answering as many or as few questions as you wish, meaning some might do so by answering many small mark questions whereas others might make it up by answering a longer big ticket question. Alternatively tell students they have to make up the score using exactly 4 questions.

The purpose is no more than to encourage students to be genuinely selective about which questions they choose to answer and to perhaps reflect afterwards on why they were drawn to certain questions. As a differentiated activity it can be highly effective in allowing students ownership of the types of questions that they feel comfortable in approaching in a non-judgemental way.

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